Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff

lost-in-shangri-laLost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

I’ve read so much about World War II but I love that I can still come across new-to-me stories on some aspect of the war. The latest? A rescue mission in New Guinea that had me reading sections out loud to my husband (always a sign of an interesting book). What an incredible story!

The book is filled with photographs, which helps visualize the people and setting. One drawback to reading the book on my Kindle is that the included map was too small to be of much use, so keep that in mind if you’re debating which format.

Zuckoff does a decent job of bringing the individuals to life, but there isn’t as strong an emotional connection with any of them as the very best narrative nonfiction provides. I did appreciate his follow-up interviews in New Guinea, and assume he did the best he could with the historical record available.

There are some definite moments of “can you believe this!” that could lead to a fun discussion, and make me think it would be a good choice as a book club selection.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:

On May 13, 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and WACs boarded a transport plane for a sightseeing trip over Shangri-La, a beautiful and mysterious valley deep within the jungle-covered mountains of Dutch New Guinea. Unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton’s bestselling novel Lost Horizon, this Shangri-La was home to spear-carrying tribesmen, warriors rumored to be cannibals. But the pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed.

Miraculously, three passengers pulled through. Margaret Hastings, barefoot and burned, had no choice but to wear her dead best friend’s shoes. John McCollom, grieving the death of his twin brother also aboard the plane, masked his grief with stoicism. Kenneth Decker, too, was severely burned and suffered a gaping head wound.

Emotionally devastated, badly injured, and vulnerable to the hidden dangers of the jungle, the trio faced certain death unless they left the crash site. Caught between man-eating headhunters and enemy Japanese, the wounded passengers endured a harrowing hike down the mountainside–a journey into the unknown that would lead them straight into a primitive tribe of superstitious natives who had never before seen a white man or woman.

Drawn from interviews, declassified U.S. Army documents, personal photos and mementos, a survivor’s diary, a rescuer’s journal, and original film footage, Lost in Shangri-La recounts this incredible true-life adventure for the first time. Mitchell Zuckoff reveals how the determined trio–dehydrated, sick, and in pain–traversed the dense jungle to find help; how a brave band of paratroopers risked their own lives to save the survivors; and how a cowboy colonel attempted a previously untested rescue mission to get them out.

By trekking into the New Guinea jungle, visiting remote villages, and rediscovering the crash site, Zuckoff also captures the contemporary natives’ remembrances of the long-ago day when strange creatures fell from the sky. A riveting work of narrative nonfiction that vividly brings to life an odyssey at times terrifying, enlightening, and comic, Lost in Shangri-La is a thrill ride from beginning to end.


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Climbing the Mango Trees (and a linkup)

Climbing the Mango TreesThe hardest reviews for me to write are always the ones where I don’t have strong feelings about a book, and Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey is a prime example of that sort of book.

It’s fine. The writing is nice, and there are some good stories, but it’s not as engaging as I wanted it to be. It always felt very surface-level, and even after finishing it I didn’t feel like I had a great sense of who she is. I wanted more from the book – more emotion, more depth, more details.

I’m still glad I read it, both because it is such a different life and background than other memoirs I’ve read, and because I kept running across it on “great food memoir” lists. I side-eye it’s inclusion there a bit, as I don’t think it’s truly a great food memoir like some are. However, not every book can be amazing, and this one was still enjoyable enough.

Recommended for devoted memoir fans – this is unlike to convert anyone to the genre.


Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion of Burial Rites on September 1st.


If you’ve written a post about Climbing the Mango Trees, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

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3. The linkup will be open for two weeks.

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5. By linking up, you’re granting me permission to use and/or repost photographs or comments from your linked post.

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Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Midnight RiotMidnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch

Jessica (Quirky Bookworm) shared about this title and made it sound so appealing that I immediately looked for it at my library. Happily for me, I was able to get a copy right away and dove into it. I love mysteries and when someone adds a twist to it it’s extra fun. In Midnight Riot the twist is the paranormal element, and I really enjoyed it.

It’s the first book in a series, and I’ll be getting the next, Moon Over Soho soon(ish). If they all stay at this level, I’ll likely read the entire series.

While I wouldn’t say it’s a must-read, if it sounds interesting to you and/or it’s the sort of book you enjoy (an urban fantasy/crime fiction mashup) then it’s worth trying.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut. But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost. Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny. Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.

Book Details

Title: Midnight Riot
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Category: Fiction / Mystery
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Cover Love: The Princess Bride

The Yarn Whisperer by Clara Parkes

HNA6929r+YarnWhisperer_int_correx6_3.inddThe Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting by Clara Parkes

I’m not a knitter, so a knitting memoir seems like an unlikely choice for me. However, I stumbled across Parkes’ later book, Knitlandia, that sounded really intriguing, and I thought perhaps I should read her earlier book first. So I ended up reading a knitting memoir. And while I would undoubtably have gotten more out of the book if I’d been able to fully appreciate her metaphors, I still enjoyed her stories.

As a memoir, it’s skimpy: my understanding of who she is and her story is patchy, but what was there was quite enjoyable. She’s got a smooth writing style and I liked seeing how she connected various life lessons to knitting .

If you’re a knitter and you like memoirs, I’d really recommend this. If you’re not both, it’s not that I don’t think you should read it, it’s that I think there are lots of other books I’d prioritize higher. Unless I end up really loving Knitlandia and think you need to read this one first, in which case I’ll revise this review to mention that. Someday, when I finally get to Knitlandia. 🙂

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In The Yarn Whisperer: Reflections on a Life in Knitting, renowned knitter and author Clara Parkes ponders the roles knitting plays in her life via 22 captivating, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny essays. Recounting tales of childhood and adulthood, family, friends, adventure, privacy, disappointment, love, and celebration, she hits upon the universal truths that drive knitters to create and explores the ways in which knitting can be looked at as a metaphor for so many other things. Put simply, “No matter how perfect any one sweater may be, it’s only human to crave another. And another, and another.”

Book Details

Title: The Yarn Whisperer: My Unexpected Life in Knitting
Author: Clara Parkes
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

Saving CeeCee HoneycuttSaving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel by Beth Hoffman

Charming and sweet story that was an ideal vacation read. It’s light enough that it fit well with my mood at the beach, but it has just barely enough depth to still be satisfying.

I can’t give it more than 3.5 Stars, no matter how perfect it was as a beach book, because of how it skirts around more meaty issues. Racism, child neglect, insanity, poverty, and death are all briefly addressed, but in a very superficial way. The wrap-it-all-up in a bow ending was enjoyable from an emotional standpoint, but intellectually I can acknowledge how unrealistic it all was.

Highly recommended, or not at all recommended, depending on what sort of book you’re looking for. The writing is lovely, and the occasional bits of humor had me chuckling. I’ll happily try another by Hoffman.

We’ll be reading this for my in-person book club in August, and I’m looking forward to hearing what everyone else has to say about it, and finding out how well the feel-good novel works as a discussion vehicle.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Steel Magnolias meets The Help in Beth Hoffman’s New York Times bestselling Southern debut novel, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt is in trouble. For years, she has been the caretaker of her mother, Camille, the town’s tiara-wearing, lipstick-smeared laughingstock, a woman who is trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen of Georgia. When tragedy strikes, Tootie Caldwell, CeeCee’s long-lost great-aunt, comes to the rescue and whisks her away to Savannah. There, CeeCee is catapulted into a perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity—one that appears to be run entirely by strong, wacky women. From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who bathes in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapons; to Tootie’s all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones; to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.

A timeless coming of age novel set in the 1960s, Saving CeeCee Honeycutt explores the indomitable strengths of female friendship, and charts the journey of an unforgettable girl who loses one mother, but finds many others in the storybook city of Savannah. As Kristin Hannah, author of Fly Away, says, Beth Hoffman’s sparkling debut is “packed full of Southern charm, strong women, wacky humor, and good old-fashioned heart.”

Book Details

Title: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel
Author: Beth Hoffman
Category: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

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Find the Good by Heather Lende

Find the GoodFind the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary WriterFind the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende by Heather Lende

I really liked the focus in Lende’s latest book – it could so easily have been a depressing read (and some of the stories did bring tears to my eyes), but it’s not. It’s touching and heart-warming, and encouraging. It’s also really easy to read in small snippets of time so if you’re in a stage of life where you don’t have much time to devote to concentrated reading this may help you satisfy your bookish needs.

Part memoir, part essay collection, it’s not exactly either. But it’s an enjoyable and easy read, and perfectly fit my reading mood one afternoon.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
As the obituary writer in a spectacularly beautiful but often dangerous spit of land in Alaska, Heather Lende knows something about last words and lives well lived. Now she’s distilled what she’s learned about how to live a more exhilarating and meaningful life into three words: find the good. It’s that simple–and that hard.

Quirky and profound, individual and universal, Find the Good offers up short chapters that help us unlearn the habit–and it is a habit–of seeing only the negatives. Lende reminds us that we can choose to see any event–starting a new job or being laid off from an old one, getting married or getting divorced–as an opportunity to find the good. As she says, “We are all writing our own obituary every day by how we live. The best news is that there’s still time for additions and revisions before it goes to press.”

Ever since Algonquin published her first book, the New York Times bestseller If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name, Heather Lende has been praised for her storytelling talent and her plainspoken wisdom. The Los Angeles Times called her “part Annie Dillard, part Anne Lamott,” and that comparison has never been more apt as she gives us a fresh, positive perspective from which to view our relationships, our obligations, our priorities, our community, and our world.

An antidote to the cynicism and self-centeredness that we are bombarded with every day in the news, in our politics, and even at times in ourselves, Find the Good helps us rediscover what’s right with the world.

Book Details

Title: Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary WriterFind the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende
Author: Heather Lende
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir / Essays
My Rating: 3 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Born Round by Frank Bruni

Born RoundBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious AppetiteBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite by Frank Bruni by Frank Bruni

An inconsistent read – while the writing is always fine, the story itself sags in places. I enjoyed the traditional memoir aspects – the family stories, his time as a journalist on the Presidential campaign trail, working in Rome, and of course as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. Unfortunately, one of the key themes of the book is tracing his food issues, and while those may be important to him, they end up being less interesting to me as a reader and contributes to an overall feeling of lifelessness. He’s had some amazing experiences – where are the amazing stories about them?

In many ways though, Bruni’s book mostly suffers by comparisons – there are so many fantastic food memoirs out there, and his, while ok, isn’t as great as other possibilities. While it’s not that *his* story itself has been told before, the themes he addresses at his best have been, and in books that are stronger and more enjoyable to read.

If you’re particularly interested in his story, or in aspects of it, this isn’t meant to dissuade you from reading it, more of a caution that as you prioritize your reading time, I’d probably put other ones as higher options unless you have compelling reasons for boosting Bruni’s book.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
The New York Times restaurant critic’s heartbreaking and hilarious account of how he learned to love food just enough

Frank Bruni was born round. Round as in stout, chubby, and always hungry. His relationship with eating was difficult and his struggle with it began early. When named the restaurant critic for The New York Times in 2004, he knew he would be performing one of the most watched tasks in the epicurean universe. And with food his friend and enemy both, his jitters focused primarily on whether he’d finally made some sense of that relationship. A captivating story of his unpredictable journalistic odyssey as well as his lifelong love-hate affair with food, Born Round will speak to everyone who’s ever had to rein in an appetite to avoid letting out a waistband.

Book Details

Title: Born Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious AppetiteBorn Round: A Story of Family, Food and a Ferocious Appetite by Frank Bruni
Author: Frank Bruni
Category: Nonfiction / Memoir
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Passenger on the Pearl by Winifred Conkling

Passenger on the PearlPassenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from SlaveryPassenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson's Flight from Slavery by Winifred Conkling by Winifred Conkling

An extremely overdue review, but don’t take that as a reflection on my feelings towards the book.

This is an excellent resource for students wanting a look at slavery in the US, and how it impacted an individual family.

Despite touching on horrific aspects of American history, the way the story is told makes it readable by younger children – I would probably not hesitate to use it for middle grade or even upper elementary readers. Know your reader of course, but I would think if you’re willing to let your child read about slavery in general, nothing in this story should be a problem. One possible exception/caution is because of some references to the threat of sexual slavery and abuse Emily and her sister faced. Nothing is graphical described, and oblivious readers may not even catch it, but be aware it’s in there.

The straightforward writing style, while having the advantage of keeping it from being too graphic for more sensitive or younger readers, does end up making it a drier read. It’s an incredible story, with connections to significant events in American history, but the writing makes it not as compelling to keep reading.

It’s a very educational read, and one of the strongest points of the book is in the resource list – it ends up working well as a starting point, to then find more information about particular aspects of slavery in the US. Emily’s story is fascinating, and I appreciated the follow-up provided on her family (when it was available).

Recommended for children or younger teens looking for material on the topic. It doesn’t have enough depth to be one I’d recommend for older teens or adults, but for the target audience it’s a worthwhile resource.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
The page-turning, heart-wrenching true story of one young woman willing to risk her safety and even her life for a chance at freedom in the largest slave escape attempt in American history.

In 1848, thirteen-year-old Emily Edmonson, five of her siblings, and seventy other enslaved people boarded the Pearl under cover of night in Washington, D.C., hoping to sail north to freedom. Within a day, the schooner was captured, and the Edmonsons were sent to New Orleans to be sold into even crueler conditions. Through Emily Edmonson’s journey from enslaved person to teacher at a school for African American young women, Conkling illuminates the daily lives of enslaved people, the often changing laws affecting them, and the high cost of a failed escape.

Book Details

Title: Passenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson’s Flight from SlaveryPassenger on the Pearl: The True Story of Emily Edmonson's Flight from Slavery by Winifred Conkling
Author: Winifred Conkling
Category: Juvenile Nonfiction
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from NetGalley, but I actually read it as a library book (the advanced copy I received wasn’t cooperating with my ereader). I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: New on My Bookcase (vol. 27)

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

The Hired GirlThe Hired GirlThe Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz by Laura Amy Schlitz

If you, like me, can be disappointed when an otherwise good book doesn’t fulfill what you’d been led to believe it would be based on its description, let me just warn you: I do not think the book is a “comedic tour de force.” I do not think it’s anywhere close to being one.

Other than that, I would agree with the description: the author has delicious wit and a keen eye, and the book is moving. It does explore feminism (slightly) along with religion, literature, love, and loyalty. And yes, there is plenty of housework. She is a hired girl, after all.

Don’t let my “it’s not what it claims to be!” keep you from trying the book, if you’re a fan of historical fiction. Joan is an appealing character, and her story is engrossing. I enjoyed the diary format, as it helped make some of the more emotionally charged moments easier to read. Apparently I’m a literary wimp, and liked the extra distance provided by her relaying events later, rather than me reading about them as they were happening. (I realize this sounds crazy, but there you have it.)

The writing is smooth, and the only reason I didn’t finish it in one session is because of still needing to take care of things like children and dinners and other household tasks. Appropriate enough for this book.

The characterizations are wonderful, and I find myself wondering what happened to them all after the story ends. I liked so many of them, and kind of miss them now. I also enjoyed the peek into life in a Jewish household.

Recommended if you enjoy historical fiction. It is classified as a young adult or middle grade book, but I found it quite enjoyable as an adult. I’d hesitate to hand it over to a younger, precocious reader – there is the emotional abuse Joan takes early in the book, and later in the book are descriptions of kissing and some more (see below) if those are issues for your readers.

Spoiler alerts if you’re still debating on its appropriateness for your reader. Highlight the area below to see, but it does give away the ending:

Joan spends a large portion of the book lying about her identity (quite understandably), although it does all end up resolving in the end, when her real name and age are discovered. Towards the end of the book she also offers to become the mistress of the man she believes she’s in love with, although it’s phrased in such a way it could be missed by somewhat oblivious readers. The uproar when she’s discovered and emphasis on “nothing happened” would probably let them know they’ve missed something if they didn’t already catch it. Her employers “catch” her and find out who she really is and how young she is, and the book eventually ends with her headed back to school.

So yes, I liked the book, but I would be aware of the age and maturity of potential readers before sharing it.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her delicious wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a moving yet comedic tour de force.

Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself—because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of—a woman with a future. Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz relates Joan’s journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a society household in Baltimore (Electricity! Carpet sweepers! Sending out the laundry!), taking readers on an exploration of feminism and housework; religion and literature; love and loyalty; cats, hats, and bunions.

Book Details

Title: The Hired GirlThe Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Category: Juvenile Historical Fiction
My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Disclosure: I received this book for free from NetGalley for review. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: The Story Circle: New Session

Pirate Hunters by Robert Kurson

Pirate HuntersPirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate ShipPirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson by Robert Kurson

Fascinating look at real-life treasure hunters, racing the clock (and others) in an attempt to find a pirate ship. I loved the details of what’s involved in the search, and especially loved the historical details behind the pirate ship they were hunting.

If you want a straightforward nonfiction narrative, this may not be the book for you. It’s got the story of the modern search. It’s got background information on the two main searchers. It’s got introductions on other great treasure hunters as their stories touch this one. And of course, it’s got the historical background on the pirate Bannister and his missing ship. The narrative jumps between all of the storylines, which helps with the pacing, and fills out what might otherwise be a brief account of the hunt. Despite this, the writing is fast-paced and compelling, and compliments the story well.

Recommended for those who are interested in the topic, but I wouldn’t push it on anyone who doesn’t already think they’d like it. It’s good, but not one that I think would have near-universal appeal.

Publisher’s Description:
A thrilling new adventure of danger and deep-sea diving, historic mystery and suspense, by the author of the New York Times best seller Shadow Divers.

Finding and identifying a pirate ship is the hardest thing to do under the sea. But two men – John Chatterton and John Mattera – are willing to risk everything to find the Golden Fleece, the ship of the infamous pirate Joseph Bannister. While he was at large during the Golden Age of Piracy in the 17th century, Bannister’s exploits would have been more notorious than Blackbeard’s, more daring than Kidd’s, but his story and his ship have been lost to time. If Chatterton and Mattera succeed, they will make history – it will be just the second time ever that a pirate ship has been discovered and positively identified. Soon, however, they realize that cutting-edge technology and a willingness to lose everything aren’t enough to track down Bannister’s ship. They must travel the globe in search of historic documents and accounts of the great pirate’s exploits, face down dangerous rivals, and battle the tides of nations and governments and experts. But it’s only when they learn to think and act like pirates – like Bannister – that they become able to go where no pirate hunters have gone before.

Fast paced and filled with suspense, fascinating characters, history, and adventure, Pirate Hunters is an unpauseable story that goes deep to discover truths and souls long believed lost.

Book Details

Title: Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate ShipPirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship by Robert Kurson
Author: Robert Kurson
Category: Nonfiction
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
Buy the book: Print | Kindle | Audible

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!